Zen Koans Explained: "Teaching the Ultimate"

"Zen." Roll the world over in your mouth. "Zzzzennnn." Do you taste it? I can, but I spent years practicing that. Years. Don't expect to get there on the first day.

The koan: "Teaching the Ultimate"

In early times in Japan, bamboo-and-paper lanterns were used with candles inside. A blind man, visiting a friend one night, was offered a lantern to carry home with him.

"I do not need a lantern," he said. "Darkness or light is all the same to me."

"I know you do not need a lantern to find your way," his friend replied, "but if you don't have one, someone else may run into you. So you must take it."

The blind man started off with the lantern and before he had walked very far someone ran squarely into him.

"Look out where you are going!" he exclaimed to the stranger. "Can't you see this lantern?"

"Your candle has burned out, brother," replied the stranger.

The enlightenment: "Are you really my brother?" asked the blind man.

"No," the stranger replied. "I just said 'brother' in the slang sense, you know, like a nice term of affection. I'm just being nice, I'm not actually your biological brother."

"I know, idiot—I would have recognized your voice," said the blind man, witheringly. "It was a trick question to measure your level of callousness towards the blind."

The blind man's brother, who'd gotten voice alteration surgery along with full facial reconstruction and colored contact lenses years earlier when he became a fugitive, gulped. That was close.

This has been "Zen Koans Explained." Like candy cane.

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